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December 24, 2014

Life in Borneo at Christmas

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I can't believe I have started my seventh year here. I came to stay for just one year and look at me now! A wife, a son and an apartment overlooking the Sarawak River.


As I look straight ahead through the big sliding glass doors, the river comes toward me. There are about nine fishing boats all parked in a row of threes. They probably won't go out again until after the Monsoon season, which end in February.


To my left on the opposite shore, this houses the villages or kampungs. They are old houses, not worthy of protection. They were slapped together with whatever the people could find, torn down and slapped together again. Well, there are some houses of historical interest, but most deserve to be bulldozed. At each village, there is a Surau, what we would call a chapel. People go there to pray five times a day. They have a call to prayer, which is loud and boisterous at 5 A.M. It wakes me up, but that's okay, I go to bed early.


To my right is the tourist section of the city of Kuching. A walkway lines the river. I take Dzul down there for ice cream. Out my window is a McDonald's Restaurant. I go over there once a week and bring back two beef cheeseburgers, fries and a Happy Meal for Dzul. It is a busy place with five hotels nearby. The burgers are a real treat because they have meat in them. So expensive here and McDonald's has the cheapest ($2) Big Mac's in the world. I know, I know...but still.


We have many plants on the large curved balcony that faces the river. My orchids have finally bloomed after a year of sleep. We have a rose plant, palms and other stuff from the jungle. I don't know what most of them are, but Suriani does and they do add green to the green already around us.


I am a Muslim. I had to become one to marry my wife. I don't go to Mosque because I will be the only white person there and all eyes will be on me.


I have tried reading the Qu'ran. Usually, with the Bible, you can open it anywhere and find something you like. But the Qu'ran is hard to read, even the English version. I now know why people have to go to Cairo and study it for four years.


We are going to Bahau on the Peninsula tomorrow (the 20th). It is for a wedding of one of the sons of a girl I stayed with in the village in Kuala Pilah, 40 years ago. No, it wasn't like that. She slept in one room, I in another.


They are very strict Moslems, so I will have to be wary about going to the Mosque. I will wear my traditional Malay clothes. The wedding lasts for two days. The first night is just for family, while the second day is for anyone who wants to come. It will be fun seeing all the villagers again.


We will return on the 22nd. Suriani has set up a tree and I think I will let some Christmas into the flat. I will take Dzul down and let him "buy" a present for his mother. It is a porcelain shard we found at Niah Caves. We will have a small hole drilled into it and a clasp attached. Then we will buy a gold chain. I told Suriani to purchase underwear and socks for me. We will get toys for Dzul. Not much of a Christmas rush around here.


A very Merry Christmas to all from Malaysian Borneo.


...Life is good. . . . .


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